Mahaboobnagar reeling under drought

150811 Mahaboobnagar rainfall

The crisis is further aggravated by the changed cropping patterns. today Mahaboobnagar has 30% area under cotton, about 30% area under orchard crops and 15% each under paddy and hybrid maize which are water guzzling.

The district which receives on average 500 mm rainfall is increasingly seeing deficit in no. of rainy days. for example in July, Amangal dist received 25% of the monthly average rainfall only in a day and rest of the days were dry.

Government should immediately focus on

  • protecting any crop which is surviving. this needs plans for protective irrigation. any tubewells in the village should be blocked for use to grow water intensive crops like paddy and be shared with other farmers to protect the crop by paying suitable compensation
  • planning short term pulse crop like greengram or horsegram in areas where sowing have not happend or where crop has already failed.
  •  completely stopping paddy cultivation in rabi season
  • discouraging organge plantations
  • provide relief in terms fodder and water to support livestock

and as a long term measure plan for

  • shift from cotton, maize and paddy to millets, pulses and oilseeds
  • insitu water harvesting at the farm level

Andhra Pradesh government declares 234 mandals ‘drought-hit’

http://www.ndtv.com/article/south/andhra-pradesh-government-declares-234-mandals-drought-hit-315418

Press Trust of India | Updated: January 09, 2013 21:56 IST

HyderabadThe Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday declared 234 mandals in nine districts of the state as drought-hit in 2012, to enable farmers avail credit facilities and take up relief operations.

The drought-hit mandals district-wise are Anantapur (63), Kadapa (43), Kurnool (36), Prakasam (35), Chittoor (28), Nalgonda (11), Nellore (9), Mahabubnagar (5) and Guntur (4).

The announcement was made following proposals received from district collectors and their perusal by the senior officials, official sources said.

“The concerned district collectors are requested to take further action and notify specific mandals or areas in the mandal in the district gazette, to enable farmers avail credit facilities and take up relief operations,” a Government Order (GO) issued on Wednesday said.

Dealing with drought, but not of ideas

Author: Anil Gupta, The author is a professor at IIMA, anilgb@gmail.com 
Daily News and Analysis | August 5, 2012

Let us recall drought of 1987 when large-scale migration of cattle had taken place. Fodder was brought from Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, cattle camps were organised just outside Ahmedabad and a lot of children were withdrawn from schools. The water table had plummeted and grain prices shot through the roof, though sufficient stocks existed. Distress induced sale of livestock, which was accompanied by increase in informal borrowings because banks had somehow become cautious.
Drought looming large on Gujarat’s horizon and in other parts of the country calls for some reflection on choices ahead of us. We have to cope with the stress in a manner that sustainability is not adversely affected in the long run. There are several early indicators of impending stress that need to be tracked. While delayed rains in August can still make the situation bearable, it is unlikely to mitigate the damage already done.
The conditions of those artisans and labourers who depend on farmers for their livelihood need critical attention because they do not receive much relief in general. The public works for providing employment can be made part of long-term drought mitigation strategy, but often these are not.
Gujarat is blessed with a rich civil society that built lakhs of check dams with or without aid from the government. This also means that number of borewells has also increased.
If all of these borewells start extracting ground water excessively as is likely, situation might turn grim. In some parts of Surendranagar and in areas around Little Rann of Kutch, people have used motors of 70-80 horsepower. They obviously don’t extract only rechargeable water but also fossil water, which is the water held between rocks when earth came into existence.
Just as many fields became uncultivable in coastal Jamnagar and other regions due to ingress of seawater, I’m worried that excessive extraction of groundwater might make more fields saline in due course of time. Advisory on that subject will be issued urgently. Distress induced borrowing and sale of assets will have to be tracked and prevented, foreclosure of mortgages will have to be contained, and imaginary diversity of employment activities needs to be generated so that various occupation classes do not get de-skilled but are gainfully engaged.
Some years ago when excessive water was drawn from Kutch from some tanks, birds were found dead in their nests with their young ones underneath them. They could have flown away but they did not. SRISTI recently conducted a study of Chabutaras in about 180 villages. In villages that have many chabutaras including some very old ones, need for formal institutional mediation did not arise.
Communities have worked out time-tested rules for feeding the birds. Wherever schools have a system of collecting grains for feeding birds through children, communities track need for not only the present, but also for the future. Kids are groomed to take care of the birds. Excess collections are saved to meet future needs. In places where there are formal institutions for collecting grains, communities tracked use of the grains and feeding to the birds which established their accountability.
Shouldn’t we consider survivability of birds and animals with the same concern as human survival in event of a drought? National policies may not provide for it but regional and community action can take care of it; state intervention may or may not be needed. Fodder banks need to be created before it becomes too expensive to import from states up north. Crop pattern can be influenced so that even if yield goes down, supply of fodder remains intact.

A looming drought is manageable. Long-term changes to the monsoon might be catastrophic

India’s climate

Monsoon, or later

Jul 28th 2012 | DASNA, UTTAR PRADESH | from the print edition

  • A farmer walks through a dry, cracked paddy-field on the outskirts of Jammu. The monsoon, which usually starts to arrive in June, has barely come at all this year
  • Hindu priests perform rituals in prayer for the rains at a temple in Ahmedabad

    AP

THE dizzying midday heat of India’s northern plains cracks the earth. Farmers slump on the charpoys on which they sleep outdoors. It should be raining, yet the sky is clear. Prithi Singh, lean and wrinkled, says his entire rice crop has withered, along with fields sown for fodder.

After two summers of erratic and delayed monsoons, this year the rains simply failed. Mr Singh cannot afford to pay for a borehole, generator and diesel to reach ever-diminishing groundwater. Farmers always grumble. But Mr Singh has lost half of his annual income of 50,000 rupees ($890) and now depends upon his crop of winter wheat. Another farmer nearby fears he must sell his land to pay accumulated debts to moneylenders.

The monsoon months, June to September, bring three-quarters of India’s annual rainfall. Official studies show it to be erratic in four out of every ten years. Yet farmers rarely get any useful warning of shortfalls. As recently as late June, India’s meteorologists were predicting a normal monsoon. Punjab and Haryana, two north-western agricultural states, now say rains are about 70% below average. Six western states have issued drought warnings. The government in Delhi says it may soon offer emergency help.

The country remains predominantly rural: over 600m out of 1.24 billion Indians rely directly on farming. Nearly two-thirds of Indian fields are fed only by rain. A one-off drought is tolerable. Rural job-creation schemes have lifted incomes for the poorest. Food prices have only started to creep up. Granaries are overflowing, thanks to recent bumper crops.

What is disturbing, though, are tentative signs of long-term change to the summer rains. A less stable monsoon pattern would be harder to predict. It would arrive late more often, yield less water, become more sporadic, or dump rain in shorter, more destructive bursts (which happened two years ago in Pakistan, where the Indus basin disastrously flooded). The concerns of experts about the monsoon long predate today’s dry spell.

Too little is known about summer weather systems on the subcontinent. India is short of observation stations, weather planes, satellites, climate scientists and modellers. The government and foreign donors are scrambling to make amends. But even with better data, monsoons are ill-understood once they leave the sea or low-lying land. At altitude, notably, for instance, approaching the Himalayas, it is far trickier to grasp just how factors such as wind direction, air pressure, latent heating and moisture levels interact to deliver monsoon rains.

One trend looks clear: India has grown warmer over the past six decades. Glaciers are melting in the Himalayas, and orchards in the range’s valleys are being planted on ever-higher slopes in search of a temperate climate. Crops in the northern grain belt, notably wheat, are near their maximum tolerance to heat, and so are vulnerable to short-term blasts of higher temperatures. North India’s cities are also growing hotter.

How more warmth affects the monsoon is not straightforward. A land mass heating faster than the oceans will, in theory, draw in more moisture to produce heavier monsoons. Yet the reverse appears to be happening. Specialists who met in February in Pune, in Maharashtra state, reported a 4.5% decline in monsoon rain in the three decades to 2009.

India’s leading climate modeller, R. Krishnan, of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, points to a study showing a “steady decline” in rainfall on the Western Ghats, which run down the west coast. A Japanese model that he has applied to southern India predicts that a still more rapid decline in rainfall is likely.

Such a fall may matter little for states such as Kerala in the south, which gets a monthly drenching of 50 centimetres (20 inches) during the wet season. But Mr Krishnan notes other changes, notably evidence that far fewer depressions have formed in the Bay of Bengal, off India’s east coast, in recent summers. Since these help drive rain to India’s arid northern plains, he concludes that “there is every reason to be concerned about the monsoon.”

Explanations exist for some of this. One theory is that a growing mass of particulates, such as coal dust and biomass (from the widespread use of cow dung as fuel, for instance) in the air above India, now hinders rainfall. Timothy Lenton, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter, argues that such pollution could trigger wider instability in the monsoon.

Yet a decline in average rainfall may not be the main worry. Experts who met in Delhi in May to discuss climate-induced “extreme events” in India suggest that likelier threats include more short and devastating downpours and storms, more frequent floods and droughts, longer consecutive dry days within monsoons, more rapid drying of the soil as the land heats, and a greater likelihood that plant and animal diseases might spread.

It does not bode well for farmers, or for crammed cities with poor sewerage and other rotten infrastructure. Slums and coastal cities look especially vulnerable. Mumbai was overwhelmed in 2005 when nearly a metre of rain was dumped on the city in 24 hours.

Such events will happen more often, the highest official in the country’s environment ministry warns. He wants urgently to bring about a big increase in insurance schemes that spread weather-related risks. Rajendra Pachauri, who leads the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, worries that India is not yet even seriously debating the new threats. He says it is ill-prepared for floods and droughts “that are now considered once-in-every-20-years events, but will be happening once in two years”.

The data harvest

The most pressing need is to gather and analyse data. This month Indian scientists and foreign partners launched a five-year “monsoon mission” to develop climate models for the region. India’s government is beginning to act, by setting up new Doppler radar stations to track weather systems over mountains. It is launching a new plane to fly into cyclones to study their behaviour. Better still, India and its neighbours could start sharing weather data, comparing ground and satellite observations, for example.

More can be done elsewhere, too. Most obviously, even the poorest farmers could work together better to store rainwater, for instance in ponds and tanks, rather than praying for the skies to open. The share of India’s farmland that is irrigated could roughly double, officials say. Huge scope exists to reduce losses through evaporation and leakage from shoddy irrigation systems.

More sophisticated farmers are getting better informed. One Indian firm, Weather Risk, sells forecasts to some 75,000 subscribers, mostly farmers across 15 states. Each pays just 30 rupees a month for the information the firm supplies. It looks worthwhile. Sonu Agrawal of Weather Risk notes growing demand for detail on highly localised conditions and short-term rain and hail forecasts. Demand for crop insurance is also rising.

Mr Agrawal and others remain sanguine about today’s dry patch, calling it typical of the sort of droughts that often show up in historic data stored by insurance firms. But given great gaps in knowledge about the monsoon, and uncertainties over climate change, the need for more accurate and complete data seems pressing. Studying the late rains this year will not help Prithi Singh and his parched plot today. But clarifying which, if any, trend poses the greatest threats to farmers like him could turn out to be one of India’s most important tasks.

Don’t blame the rain gods, Plan better for drought

Over 60 percent of India’s cultivable land depends on the monsoons. So why are our farmers being forced to adopt water-guzzling hybrid crops?


IN 2009, the Indian Meteorological Department had predicted a “near normal” rainfall, expecting a long-period average of 96 percent. It turned out to be one of the worst drought years in decades, with the monsoons falling short by 22 percent. So this year, when the Met Department again forecasted a “near normal” monsoon season with 96 percent long-period average, alarm bells had begun to ring.

June remained more or less dry. The rains were delayed over Karnataka for quite long, and more than 65 percent of the cultivable area went without rainfall. By the first week of July, the monsoons did forge ahead, covering the entire country, almost. The Met Department has been revising the frequency figures, trying to assure the country that the shortfall will be offset. It was 26 percent shortfall at first, 23 percent three days later and 22 percent when the latest figures came in.

Whatever the monsoon deficiency, the agriculture ministry has woken up to the threat that looms ahead, and has finally drawn up a contingency plan. It has provided seeds of short-duration crops to meet the delay in planting. With 57 percent of the area under millet and coarse cereals still to be sown, and with 26 percent deficit in paddy transplantation, the kharif sowings do not augur well. It may still be early to predict the expected shortfall in food production, but what is reassuring is the ample availability of foodgrain stocks. With over 82 million tonnes of wheat and rice in the godowns, there is no reason to panic.

The indications are that the rainfall will be deficient in the northwestern, central and southern parts of the country. But in the absence of any definite assessment, it is difficult to know the spatial distribution of rainfall, and for how long. There have been times when the country as a whole received normal or above normal rains, while some regions went dry. It has happened a number of years in Rajasthan, and rains have bypassed the central region of the country altogether. Two years ago, Bihar and Jharkhand were faced with drought, while the rest of the country received bountiful rains.

———————————————————————–
Why should Rajasthan be growing sugarcane and cotton, both water-guzzlers?
———————————————————————–

Although the Met Department has been promising to provide block-level forecasts, I wonder how that’s possible when it cannot even make a correct macro prediction for the country as a whole. Moreover, despite all technological sophistication, it may surprise you to know that the Met Department has never been able to predict droughts or impending floods.

Predicting weather, especially as complex a phenomenon as monsoons, is certainly not easy. But what is more perplexing is the failure of the agriculture ministry in making our vulnerable regions drought-proof. Every time we stare at a drought, tall promises of drought-proofing are bandied about. But after all these years, the mere mention of an impending drought sends our planners into a tizzy.

In a country with 60 percent of cultivable area rain-dependent, I cannot fathom why we promote water-guzzling crops. Hybrid crops require more water than high-yielding varieties. Hybrid seeds also require more fertilisers and pesticides. Ironically, it is in the dryland regions that farmers are being forced (with the seed industry pushing it vehemently) to cultivate hybrid varieties of paddy, jowar, bajra, cotton and vegetables. These crops require roughly 1.5 times more water than improved strains of high-yielding crop varieties. Common sense tells us that in the dryland regions, we should be cultivating crops that require less water. The more the crops pump out from the groundwater acquifer, more severe will the impact of any delayed rainfall be.

Why should Rajasthan be growing sugarcane and cotton, both water-guzzling crops? Why is Bt cotton, which requires about 15-20 percent more water than what is consumed by hybrid cotton, being promoted in the dryland regions? Don’t blame the rain gods; blame the planners, scientists and the seed suppliers who have always loved a good drought.

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own) letters@tehelka.com

One day at a cattle camp


June 15,2012 Sameena DalwaiMann. 
WOMEN & DROUGHT

 

In Maharashtra’s drought-hit Satara district, a cattle camp has come to the rescue of women and their cattle, writes Sameena Dalwai.Mann taluka in Satara district is ground zero for the drought now ravaging interior Maharashtra. The only cattle camp in the vicinity, being run by the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and Foundation, provides a snap distress.

This region, known as ‘Manndesh’ in Marathi folklore, falls in the rain shadow area of the state. Over the last three years there has been poor rainfall or none at all and the local lakes, ponds and wells have dried up.

Ironically, Mann falls in the parliamentary constituency of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who recently claimed to have spent millions shoring up irrigation facilities in Maharashtra. It is also adjacent to the ‘sugar belt’ — sugarcane is incidentally a notoriously water intensive crop — which Maratha politicians consider their stronghold, having poured in a lion’s share of Maharashtra’s development funds here. Yet, ‘Manndesh’ continues to remain at the mercy of capricious rains.

The cattle camp, spread over an expanse of five acres, presents scenes right out of a refugee camp. Thousands of animals and people stand under the scorching sun with not a tree in sight. There are, thankfully, tents to provide some shelter from the elements.

The idea of the camp emanated from social entrepreneurs Chetna and Vijay Sinha, who were political activists associated with the Jayaprakash Narayan movement in the Seventies. Chetna Gala-Sinha, a micro-finance expert, is founder-president of the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, the only women’s bank in rural Maharashtra.

Along with innovative financial products and services for the rural poor, she has been banker to nearly two lakh poor local women and understands the adverse implications that droughts have on their lives.

She says, “Women find the drought harder as they have the primary responsibility of providing food and water in the household. Moreover, they are the main caregivers to the animals.” Nowadays, many are cooking and caring for two households, one at the village and another in the camp, adding to their already tremendous workload.

Says Vijay Sinha, a newly elected leader of the Mhaswad municipality, “The oncoming devastation was obvious as summer set in. We simply had to do something and couldn’t wait for the government to wake up.”

Laxman Nana Bhosale, a farmer from Hingane village captures the drought’s severity, “In earlier droughts, our village did well. When water of the local lake went down it offered us good arable land. This time even that land has turned arid.” He, like hundreds of farmers here, has had no option but to seek refuge in this cattle camp where water and cattle feed has been provided.

Running an endeavour of this magnitude, without government help, may be a formidable task but the camp’s staff seems up to it. After all, they are used to the meticulous functioning of an RBI-monitored cooperative bank. Naturally, to ensure its smooth functioning, some innovative systems and delivery mechanisms have been set up.

Innovative

The entire camp is divided into zones based on where the villagers come from, as also the time of their arrival.

The delivery of cattle feed follows a roster system. Rekha Kulkarni, CEO of Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, explains, “Each person has a card with the number of animals, and the feed they are entitled to.

This is tick-marked every time a person receives the daily quota. Each big animal gets 15 kilos of dry grass, sugarcane, and corn per day and three kilos of processed cattle feed per week.

Water is poured into big tanks around the camp and people carry it to their animals in buckets. Two water tankers make five trips a day to a pipeline 11 kilometres away to bring in the required three lakh litres of water daily.”

The expenditure for feed is Rs 80 per animal, which the government will pay for eventually. But the water — its transportation and delivery — costs more and government funds don’t cover this. The camp requires over Rs 2 lakh every day and the Sinhas have appealed to industrial houses, banks, sarvodaya organisations and animal rights groups to help.

Kisnabai Atpadkar from Varkute Malavadi village walked 16 kilometres with her animals to reach the camp. Talking about the situation in her village she says, “The tanker comes every 15 days. My six cows need over 200 litres of water daily. Where can we store this? If I decide to sell my cattle now, I would lose my life’s savings.”

Critical situation

Atpadkar has got timely support, but the situation in ‘Manndesh’ is critical. Says Rupesh Mane, Camp Manager, “Drought for the last three years has meant that even a borewell 300 metres deep does not yield water.

Each big animal needs around 60 litres of water every day. There is no water in the wells, taps run for two hours every four days and tankers hardly reach the villages.

With all this in mind, the cattle camp began on April 21.

By the end of May, the number of animals reached over 4,000 and the camp threatened to become unmanageable in terms of fodder, water and other internal logistics. So the organisers decided to stop new entries.

When this news spread, people from faraway villages gathered their animals together and brought them to the camp by trucks and tempos. In two days the number rose by over 1000. On the third day, when people reached the boundary of the camp and found the gates closed many were reduced to tears.

But no one has been denied entry. Today, there are 2,500 people and over 7,000 animals here. “Our camp is a small village now. This village has everything, from cooking facilities to neighbourhood support. We have also organised a dairy truck to provide milk every morning,” informs Vanita Shinde, Chief Administrative Officer at Mann Deshi Bank.

The local farmers have a deep connect with their livestock. They call them by their names, chat with them and despair over their fate. Says Jijaba Bangar, an elderly villager, “My wife goes home every evening to care for our school-going grandchildren, but she weeps when she has to leave her animals. She says our home looks desolate without cattle at the door!”

As the evening breeze picks up, we sit around and chat with some farmers. ‘What if this camp wasn’t there?’ we ask. They reply in unison, “Half these animals would have gone under the butcher’s knife. We would have to sell them and in these times there are no other buyers.”

In this situation the government is conspicuous by its absence. Manndesh has been let down in two ways — neither has there been effective planning for water here, nor has the drought-hit community been helped adequately.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the skies for evidence of rain clouds. The fortune tellers with their Nandi bulls have forecast early rains and the Sinhas are constantly being told that the blessings of the mute animals they are helping keep alive will yield them golden results.

Drought dries up foodgrain production in AP

K.V. KURMANATH

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HYDERABAD, MAY 23:

Production of foodgrains, oilseeds and cotton in Andhra Pradesh have registered a fall in 2011-12. Both kharif and rabi seasons were hit by drought, forcing the Government to declare over 90 per cent of allmandals as drought hit.

Sugarcane, chillies and turmeric bucked the trend with production rising.

Advance estimates prepared by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics have pegged foodgrain production at 183 lakh tonnes (lt) last season, lower than 203 lt in the previous one.

Though kharif saw an increase in rice production at 86 lt (75 lt), the overall rice production for the year decreased to 130 lt (144 lt). This led to the overall fall in foodgrain production, largely due to fall in rabi season.

The paddy area came down to 41 lakh hectares (48 lakh ha), while that of oilseeds fell to 19 lakh ha (24 lakh ha). Cotton production was down to 34 lakh bales of 170 kg of lint from 39 lakh bales.

OILSEEDS

Production of oilseeds too has been estimated lower. The projections expect virtually no production of palm oil against 3.76 lt last year.

The worst hit has been the groundnut crop. Production is down by 50 per cent to 8.8 lt from 15 lt, dragging the oilseed production to 13 lt (31 lt). This fall has been attributed to failure of kharif.

“Tobacco, castor, sunflower and soyabean too have shown a fall compared with year on year figures,” an official of the State Agriculture Ministry said.

While the sugarcane production went up to 159 lt from Rs 149 lt, chillies production increased to 9 lt (6.38 lt).

kurmanath@thehindu.co.in

Two talukas in Maharashtra face worst drought in memory


Author(s): Ashwin Aghor
 
Experts blame it on poor groundwater management, lax attitude of government in providing irrigation facilities

Anandarao Patil
Anandrao Patil’s 16-hectare orchard in Atpadi has withered as even borewells have gone dry

Drought has again hit large parts of Maharashtra this year. But the worst affected are two talukas in Sangli district. Jat and Atpadi are facing the worst drought in decades, despite river Krishna flowing 100 km away. Analysts blame the plight on poor management of groundwater and lax attitude of the state government in extending irrigation facilities to the region that falls in the rain shadow area of the Western Ghats.

People in these talukas are adept at making do with meagre rainfall. Traditionally they grow sorghum, pearl millet and wheat that require less water. But some two decades ago, lured by the profits earned by farmers in western Sangli, which has adequate irrigation facilities from the Krishna Valley project, Jat and Atpadi farmers began growing cash crops. “Commercial cultivation of the crops forced them to over-exploit groundwater,” says Chintamani Sahasrabuddhe, bureau chief of Marathi daily Pudhari. Within years the talukas notched a place in the world map of pomegranate producing areas. But since 2005 the region has been witnessing a drastic change in rainfall pattern (see table). This year there is no rain at all. With rainfall playing truant, farmers have nearly exhausted their groundwater resources. “Till last year, only the wealthy farmers could manage their crops despite the water shortage by deepening their borewells,” says Anandrao Patil from Atpadi. “This year even they are in trouble,” he adds. Pomegranate trees on his 16 hectare orchard have dried up or withered, leading to heavy losses.

Changing rainfall pattern
Year Jat Atpadi
2005 520 mm 153 mm
2006 616 mm 223 mm
2007 536 mm 577 mm
2008 368.10 mm 356 mm
2009 710.70 mm 600 mm
2010 742.80 mm 575 mm
2011 375.80 mm 389 mm

D R Jakhi, senior geologist at Sangli, says the water level could have dipped below 300 metres in Jat and Atpadi. According to Sangli Zilla Parishad, 35 of 41 farm ponds and all dug wells in the talukas have dried up since March. Even the Atpadi lake has dried up. Civic administration is now digging the silt to extract the remaining water from the water body.

“Entire plantations in villages like Nelkaranji, Kharsundi, Tadvale, Bhingewadi, Jambhulai, Zare, Hiwtad, Atpadi, Banpuri, Dighanchi and Shetfal have died,” says Sarjerao Khilari, a farmer from Kargani village. He has not seen such a severe drought in his entire life. “We have barely enough water to sustain my family and 36 livestock,” says Khilari, as he helplessly watches his orchard of 15,000 pomegranate trees dying. Ashok Deshmukh, a farmer from Hiwtad village in Atpadi, who used to earn Rs 27 to Rs 30 lakh annually from pomegranate plantation on his one hectare land, has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 40 lakh this year. Unofficial estimates put the losses faced by farmers in the blocks to the tune of Rs 110 crore.

After declaring acute water shortage in 7,296 villages in 15 of the state’s 35 districts (see map) in March, the government issued a directive to ensure a supply of 20 litres of water per head every day to these villages. For the 200 villages in Atpadi and Jat, the administration has sanctioned 14,550 trips by 39 tankers. The government has also issued directives for supplying free fodder to cattle. But residents say they are getting water once in three to four days.

Map
Vilas Jagtap, a Nationalist Congress Party leader in Sangli, says almost all the water resources in the region have dried up. So people are getting just five to 10 litres of water per head as against 20 liters and cattle are getting mere 200 to 250 gm fodder as against 15 kg per day.” According to cattle census, Jagtap says, 1,750 tonnes of fodder is required daily in Jat. But so far the government has provided only 3,802 tonnes.

Unable to feed the livestock, people are selling their cattle to slaughterhouses at throwaway prices. Several families are also migrating to Mumbai and Pune in search of work, the way they used to do before the pomegranate era began in the talukas.

Get water wise: say experts

“Drought is a natural cycle in the region that makes a comeback every three years,” says Sahasrabuddhe. “We cannot change this. But we can handle the situation with water resources management and by changing the crop pattern.”

Madhav Chitale, an expert of groundwater conservation in Sangli, says it is high time that the government undertook long-term water management in the rain shadow region. Retired geologist Suresh Khanapurkar says, “Aquifer recharge is the only solution to the problem. Deepening and widening of existing streams, nullahs and water bodies is the need of the hour. This will serve two purposes—accommodate additional water during floods and release stored water during crisis.” The government should study the changing rainfall pattern and undertake water resources management accordingly. Efforts should be made to arrest every drop of rain and make it percolate in the ground, he says.

Anandrao Patil says the completion of Tembhu irrigation scheme of Krishna Valley Project is the only way to save the farmers in the rain shadow region. “The scheme envisaged supplying irrigation and drinking water to Tasgaon, Kadepur, Jat and Atpadi talukas. The water has reached Tasgaon and Kadepur talukas. But there is no progress since last 15 years.

Arun Mane, state unit president of Maharashtra Rajya Shetkari Parishad who has been fighting for the cause of farmers since 1980, says: “All the funds given by the government for irrigation projects have turned out to be dead investment. The drought in the state is not natural; it is government-made calamity.” The situation can change if government takes up scientific management of rain water, ground water and water stored in lakes and ponds. The annual average rainfall in Jat and Atpadi talukas is around 300 mm. This is not a good rainfall, but sufficient to sustain traditional crops like sorghum, pearl millet and wheat. More than half of the rain water runs off as there is not mechanism to arrest it and force its percolation. According to Mane, there should be restriction on ground water resources exploitation and also on crop pattern. Taluka-level committees should be formed to monitor water extraction and its use. It has been observed that wealthy farmers are exploiting ground water resources as per their whims. Mane suggests banning sugar mills and prohibiting sugarcane cultivation and digging borewells in Jat and Atpadi talukas. Even if the farmers in that area save 10 per cent water, it will solve the problem of annual drinking water of drought hit area, Mane says.

Central team visits Karnataka to assess drought impact

Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda at the Legislative Assembly on Dec. 13, 2011. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The Hindu Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda at the Legislative Assembly on Dec. 13, 2011. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

A central team arrived on Wednesday to assess the impact of drought in parts of Karnataka, where the Government has declared 99 taluks as drought-hit.

Replying to a debate on the drought situation in the Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said once the team files the report with the Centre after the two-day visit, the State would take out an all-party delegation to the Union Government to press for grant of funds towards drought-relief works.

He announced sanctioning of Rs 36 crore for drilling borewells in drought-hit areas.

Mr. Gowda said as on October end, the crop loss was to the tune of Rs 4,544.84 crore, adding, as per the Central norms, a memorandum has been submitted to the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seeking additional relief funds of Rs 723.24 crore.

The Chief Minister listed various steps taken by the Government from early October towards drought-relief works.

“Funds are available with Deputy Commissioners in districts to take up relief works. There is no shortage of fodder anywhere in the State,” Mr. Gowda said, rejecting the Opposition Congress and JDS charge that the Government lacked seriousness in tackling the scarcity situation.

Mr. Gowda said 956 farmers have killed themselves in the State since 2008 but added such suicides have come down “significantly” in recent months. He gave farmers’ suicide figures of the neighbouring Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to suggest that such numbers were lower in Karnataka.

Countering Mr. Gowda’s claim, leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah (Congress), citing a magazine report that quoted figures of the national and state crime records bureau, said 6,000 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the past three years.

Farmers’ suicides are counted only if they have land-holding, have taken loans from cooperation sector or commercial banks and it is proved they ended their lives because of the loans they have taken, he said, asserting many deaths don’t fall in this category.

“If you have funds, why have you not paid money to farmers who suffered crop loss,” Mr. Siddaramaiah asked.

He demanded that the government fund the crop insurance premiums of small and marginal farmers as well as those belonging to SCs and STs.

The Congress staged a walk-out from the House, with Mr. Siddaramaiah saying the opposition members were unhappy with the Chief Minister’s reply and the government lacked seriousness in dealing with the drought situation.

No two droughts are alike

Author: Richard Mahapatra
Posted on: 17 Aug, 2011
Why government’s 2009 drought management plan may not work this year

Photo: Ruhani Kaur
Half way into the season, the monsoon plays truant. The India Meteorological Department resets its forecast. Low rainfall in the second half of the monsoon (August- September) means a rain deficit of six to 24 per cent. This is bad news for close to 121 million people who are yet to recover from the severe drought of 2009, triggered by a 22 per cent monsoon deficit.

Agriculture ministry officials in Delhi are confident of “hassle-free” drought management. Their confidence arises from the fairly well-managed drought of 2009. The strategy is simple: clone the drought response template of 2009. The drought of 2009 affected more than half of India’s districts in 14 states, impacting 121 million people.

But this strategy marks a fundamental mistake policymakers commit: misunderstanding the route that a deficit monsoon takes to become a severe drought. A drought is better understood—thus better managed—while it unfolds.

So, can we equate the 2009 and 2011 droughts in our response? Or for that matter, can two droughts ever be tackled in the same manner? In popular perception, a deficit monsoon leads to a drought straightaway. But in reality there is a complex interplay of rainfall, its time and spread, and government response. Each drought has distinct features. The spread and intensity of a drought entirely depends on when the monsoon fails to pour. Subsequent government responses to manage the situation decide how severe its impact would be on people.

It will be prudent to look at the 2009 and 2011 situations to understand the fundamental differences between the two. In 2009, the drought was caused by the delay in monsoon in June which delayed sowing. Once it revived in July, agricultural activities resumed. The winter monsoon (October-December) was normal, thus helping retain soil moistures. Many farmers who started late could easily extend their season up to November. Government’s response in terms of alternative short-term crops and diesel subsidies helped people tide over the crisis.

In case of the current monsoon, the deficit is being experienced in July-August. Eight states reported 30-50 per cent rain deficit till August 1. July is the crucial month for sowing and retaining already sown crops. Monsoon failures in July impacts both crops already sown in a few states and delays sowing in many places. With just two months of monsoon left, uncertainty grips farmers. India’s severest droughts in terms of spread and crop loss—1979, 1987 and 2002—have been triggered by monsoon failures in July. Unlike the 2009 drought, these three droughts are still remembered for causing extreme human misery. They decisively changed government’s drought management programmes. But one critical aspect was still not recognised: the link between the time of monsoon failure and the severity of its impacts.

The other worrying aspect is that this year’s forecast of a deficit monsoon follows close on the heels of the severe drought of 2009. The worst case scenario projected for the current monsoon is a rain deficit two per cent more than the 22 per cent deficit of 2009. So the inevitable question is: should we just continue the 2009 programmes to fight another possible drought? Chances are high that government will do just that post declaration of drought. That would be a mistake.

Impacts of drought can stay long. A study by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines shows that drought is a major factor for keeping people below the poverty line forever. In a severe drought year, the research found, farmers in Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh suffer agricultural losses close to US $132 million. “The effects of drought often trap them in perpetual poverty,” the study observed. The survey found that almost 13 million people in these three states who sit perilously just above the poverty line fall below it due to drought-induced income loss. The same districts that suffered the drought of 2009 are again facing drought-like conditions due to deficit rainfall this year. In 2010, many of them also suffered delayed monsoon, bringing down yields. So people in these districts first need years of consistent livelihood supports post-drought to enable them to return to their normal economic state.

It is clear that government has to adopt two approaches. First, define drought management plan based on time of monsoon failure. Second, mount an overarching livelihood programme that continues support to drought-prone people. India has elaborate drought mitigation programmes. Now there is a crisis in the management plan as well. These two aspects need to be tuned to the least understood aspects of drought.